Most of us have known a friend or relative who seemed to break all the rules when it came to health and get away with it. Everybody seems to know an Uncle Fred or Auntie Mary who smoked like a chimney, ate nothing but white bread and jam and lived to be 100.
But the truth is that the little choices we make each day can make a big difference to our health and quality of life – particularly in our senior years.
I’ve just finished reading a comprehensive study of health and aging which was published last year by Dr. Laurel B. Yates, a specialist in Gerontology from the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. The findings make interesting reading.
Dr. Yates studied more than 2000 healthy men, beginning back in 1981. When the study concluded, 970 men had survived into their 90s which shows how many of us are now living longer and healthier lives.
Smoking was the single most important factor in predicting longevity. Smokers had double the risk of not living into their 90s as non-smokers.
The second most important factor was diabetes. Folks without diabetes had an 86% greater survival rate into their 90s than folks with diabetes. Of course many people find they can manage their diabetes very well through modifying their diet.
Maintaining a normal weight increased survival rates by 44% compared to those who were overweight.
Having a normal blood-pressure was also important. It increased survival rates by 28%.
Finally, exercise contributed to longevity between 20-30% depending on how regularly and vigorously people exercised.
What I found really interesting about this study was that it didn’t show any significant connection between either high cholesterol or alcohol consumption (within reason) and longevity. So let’s raise a glass to that!